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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hitting the walls of our finite world

And those supplies aren’t keeping pace. Conventional oil production has been flat for four years; in that sense, at least, peak oil has arrived. True, alternative sources, like oil from Canada’s tar sands, have continued to grow. But these alternative sources come at relatively high cost, both monetary and environmental.

Also, over the past year, extreme weather — especially severe heat and drought in some important agricultural regions — played an important role in driving up food prices. And, yes, there’s every reason to believe that climate change is making such weather episodes more common.

So what are the implications of the recent rise in commodity prices? It is, as I said, a sign that we’re living in a finite world, one in which resource constraints are becoming increasingly binding. This won’t bring an end to economic growth, let alone a descent into Mad Max-style collapse. It will require that we gradually change the way we live, adapting our economy and our lifestyles to the reality of more expensive resources
The Finite World

I have huge respect for Krugman... but I think he needs to show his work when he claims that our economy can continue to grow in a finite world.
Paul's rosy prediction can happen. There are two ways to grow: by getting bigger or through development. Climate change will force us to stop getting bigger. If we respond correctly, climate change will also force us to develop more efficient and environmentally friendly sources of energy, and encourage people to live more ecofriendly lifestyles.

But throughout history civilizations have collapsed because they ignored the warnings and continued their economic and lifestyle practices even though their resources or economic model could no longer support it.

I love Wikipedia:

It may be that economic growth improves the quality of life up to a point, after which it doesn't improve the quality of life, but rather obstructs sustainable living.[27] Historically, sustained growth has reached its limits (and turned to catastrophic decline) when perturbations to the environmental system last long enough to destabilise the bases of a culture.[27]
Economic growth

And the convergence of climate change with peak everything is going to put enormous strains on everything and everybody.

What's going to happen when gas is routinely $4/gal? For starters, suburban home values will stagnate, or even go down. Imports will get expensive, and people will have less money to buy stuff. That's a recipe for recession.

I think the Locavore movement has great value. As does the self provisioning community.  By being early adopters of this lifestyle we'll be somewhat insulated from some of the worst parts of hitting the walls of our finite world.

There is no Planet B

1 comment:

  1. Quite a few interesting things put down on this posting.
    As for Krugman, like you I´ve liked him, in particular for his brazen comments about socioeconomic inequalities. Regarding the environment, though, his comments show him to be too accommodated to the system at work. There crises even more acute than climate change brewing. We´ve got 400 or so ocean dead zones, we´ve got trash disposal issues, we´ve got contamination of ocean fish, those few that haven´t been industrially overharvested. See Lester Brown, besides Jared Diamond for the sweet, sweet sounds (ugh....) or the UNEP 2009 Yearbook.
    Moreover, commodity prices are high because of high demand in conjunction with limited supplies. While many politicians are frozen, there are nevertheless glimmers of stalwart souls forging new, greener paths. Various green communities like Varese, Italy

    and Freiamt, Germany show that the politicians are not the whole story. I don´t know if we can keep things from hitting Mad Max levels, but there are some fine lifeboats out there.

    Blake, M., “In Germany, Ruddy-Cheeked Farmers Achieve (Green) Energy Independence,” The Christian Science Monitor, Boston, MA, USA, Aug. 21, 2008,